Biochemist Jeff Gelles honored by Biophysical Society

The researcher was cited for his contributions to single-molecule biophysics.

Jeff Gelles with laserPhoto by Mike Lovett

Gelles in his lab.

The Biophysical Society has recognized Jeff Gelles, the Aron and Imre Tauber Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, with one of its highest honors.

Gelles will receive the Kazuhiko Kinosita Award in Single-Molecule Biophysics for “pioneering research that established new approaches in nanometer precision imaging and single-molecule biochemistry of DNA motors, RNA polymerase from binding through transcription initiation, transcription, and release, and recently the spliceosome, which has encouraged new (and new-to-single-molecules) investigators,” the Society said in announcing the prize on its website.

"I'm honored that the Biophysical Society has chosen to recognize our work with the Kinosita Award," Gelles said. "Science is a group enterprise, and I'm deeply indebted to present and former lab members — including numerous Brandeis students — who made essential contributions to my research."

Gelles is a pioneer in the application of optical microscopy to the direct observation of individual biological macromolecules such as proteins, DNA, RNA and the molecular assemblies that they form.

He initially developed a way to observe single molecules of kinesin, a molecular motor protein, moving in real time, locating their positions in a microscope image to a precision over 100 times better than the theoretical resolution limit of conventional microscopes.

This breakthrough enabled him to watch individual kinesin molecules chugging along cellular ‘railroad tracks’ so as to carry molecular cargoes to distant regions of cells.

Single-molecule observations open up a previously unseen world of molecular behaviors that allows scientists to tease out the physical-chemical mechanisms by which macromolecules work.

Gelles has since extended single-molecule light microscopy approaches, now used in labs throughout the world, to examining the mechanisms by which genes are expressed.

The award will be presented at the 2019 Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in Baltimore on March 5.

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